Ramsay MacDonald

James Ramsay MacDonald (October 12, 1866 - November 9, 1937) was Britain's first Labour Prime Minister (January-November 1924 and June 1929-August 1931) and subsequently Prime Minister of the "National" Government of August 1931-June 1935.

The Right Hon. Ramsey MacDonald
Terms of Office:January, 1924 - November, 1924
June, 1929 - June, 1935
PM Predecessors:Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
PM Successors:Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Date of Birth:12 October 1866
Place of Birth:Lossiemouth, Scotland
Political Party:Labour

Born at Lossiemouth in Scotland, he was from very humble beginnings and had no secondary education, but was a rousing speaker. A member of the Independent Labour Party from 1893 and subsequently of the broader Labour Party, he entered Parliament in 1906, and became leader of the Labour Party in 1911. In August 1914 he resigned the party leadership in opposition to World War I, subsequently losing his parliamentary seat.

Returned to Parliament at the November 1922 general election, he was re-elected Party leader. On January 22, 1924, after the failure of the Conservative government under Stanley Baldwin to win a majority of parliamentary seats at the previous month's election, MacDonald formed a minority Labour government with Liberal Party support, but it lasted only until November 4 of the same year, when Baldwin returned to office following an election marked by controversy over the Zinoviev Letter.

MacDonald took office as prime minister again on June 7, 1929,this time as leader of the largest party in Parliament, but still without an overall majority and dependent on Liberal support. The economic and financial crisis of 1931 split the government between advocates and opponents of stringent government spending cuts, MacDonald and senior colleagues joining with the Conservatives and part of the Liberal Party in a "National Government" (August 24). Most of the Labour rank-and-file went into opposition, denouncing MacDonald as a "rat" and a traitor to the Labour Party. MacDonald was deeply wounded by this and the difficulties of governing over such a disastrous period and his health, both physical and mental, suffered over the next few years as a result. MacDonald surrendered the premiership of an increasingly Conservative-dominated government to Baldwin on June 7, 1935.

He remained in the government as Lord President of the Council but proved increasingly ineffecitve over the next two years. In the 1935 general election he lost his parliamentary seat by over 21,000 votes to Emmanuel Shinwell. MacDonald returned to the House of Commons for the Scottish Universities seat, though he had previously called for its abolition, and finally left office in May 1937. He declined all honours and sought a peaceful retirement. In November 1937, whilst travelling to South America for a long rest he was taken ill and died.

MacDonald's legacy is a mixed one, with few willing to praise his achievements. More than anyone else he transformed the Labour Party from the representatives of a section of British society into one of the two major political parties competing for office. His moderate course of politics has been followed by every subsequent successful Labour Prime Minister. However for many he remains the villain of the 1931 crisis who disrupted the steady rise of the Labour Party by forming a coalition against it. To this day he remains probably the most internally villified figure in the history of the Labour Party.

Table of contents
1 Ramsay MacDonald's First Labour Government, January - November 1924
2 Ramsay MacDonald's Second Labour Government, June 1929 - August 1931
3 Ramsay MacDonald's First Coalition Government, August - November 1931
4 Ramsay MacDonald's Second Coalition Government, November 1931 - May 1935

Ramsay MacDonald's First Labour Government, January - November 1924

  • Ramsay MacDonald - Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary
  • Lord Haldane - Lord Chancellor
  • Lord Parmoor - Lord President
  • J.R. Clynes - Lord Privy Seal
  • Philip Snowden - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Arthur Henderson - Home Secretary
  • J.H. Thomas - Colonial Secretary
  • Stephen Walsh - Secretary for War
  • Sir Sydney Olivier - Secretary for India
  • William Adamson - Secretary for Scotland
  • Christopher Birdwood Thomson - Secretary for Air
  • Lord Chelmsford - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • J.C. Wedgwood - Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • S.J. Webb - President of the Board of Trade
  • N. Buxton - Minister of Agriculture
  • C.P. Trevelyan - President of the Board of Education
  • V. Hartshorn - Postmaster-General
  • F.W. Jowett - First Commissioner of Works
  • Thomas SHaw - Minister of Labour
  • J. Wheatley - Minister of Health

Ramsay MacDonald's Second Labour Government, June 1929 - August 1931

  • Ramsay MacDonald - Prime Minister
  • Lord Sankey - Lord Chancellor
  • Lord Parmoor - Lord President
  • J.H. Thomas - Lord Privy Seal
  • Philip Snowden - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • J.R. Clynes - Home Secretary
  • Arthur Henderson - Foreign Secretary
  • Lord Passfield - Colonial and Dominions Secretary
  • Thomas Shaw - Secretary for War
  • W.W. Benn - Secretary for India
  • Lord Thomson - Secretary for Air
  • William Adamson - Secretary for Scotland
  • A.V. Alexander - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • William Graham - President of the Board of Trade
  • Sir C.P. Trevelyan - President of the Board of Education
  • N. Buxton - Minister of Agriculture
  • Margaret Bondfield - Minister of Labour
  • Arthur Greenwood - Minister of Health
  • George Lansbury - First Commissioner of Works

Changes
  • 1930 - J.H. Thomas succeeds Lord Passfield as Dominions Secretary. Passfield remains Colonial Secretary. Vernon Hartshorn succeeds Thomas as Lord Privy Seal. Lord Amulree succeeds Lord Thomson as Secretary for Air. Christopher Addison succeeds N. Buxton as Minister of Agriculture.
  • 1931 - H.B. Lees-Smith succeeds Sir C.P. Trevelyan at the Board of Education. H.S. Morrison enters the cabinet as Minister of Transport.

Ramsay MacDonald's First Coalition Government, August - November 1931

  • Ramsay MacDonald - Prime Minister
  • Lord Sankey - Lord Chancellor
  • Stanley Baldwin - Lord President
  • Philip Snowden - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir Herbert Samuel - Home Secretary
  • Lord Reading - Foreign Secretary
  • Sir Samuel Hoare - Secretary for India
  • J.H. Thomas - Dominions Secretary
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister - President of the Board of Trade
  • Neville Chamberlain - Minister of Health

Ramsay MacDonald's Second Coalition Government, November 1931 - May 1935

  • Ramsay MacDonald - Prime Minister
  • Lord Sankey - Lord Chancelor
  • Stanley Baldwin - Lord President
  • Lord Snowden - Lord Privy Seal
  • Neville Chamberlain - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir Herbert Samuel - Home Secretary
  • Sir John Simon - Foreign Secretary
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister - Colonial Secretary
  • J.H. Thomas - Dominions Secretary
  • Lord Hailsham - Secretary for War
  • Sir Samuel Hoare - Secretary for India
  • Lord Londonderry - Secretary for Air
  • Sir A. Sinclair - Secretary for Scotland
  • Sir B. Eyres-Monsell - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Walter Runciman - President of the Board of Trade
  • Sir John Gilmour - Minister of Agriculture
  • Sir D. Maclean - President of the Board of Education
  • Sir H. Betterton - Minister of Labour
  • Sir E. Hilton-Young - Minister of Health
  • W. Ormsby-Gore - First Commissioner of Works

Changes
  • 1932 - Stanley Baldwin succeeds Lord Snowden as Lord Privy Seal. Sir John Gilmour succeeds Sir Herbert Samuel as Home Secretary. Sir G. Collins succeeds Sir A. Sinclair as Scottish Secretary. W. Elliott succeeds Sir John Gilmour as Minister of Agriculture. Lord Irwin succeeds Sir D. Maclean as President of the Board of Education.
  • 1933 - Stanley Baldwin ceases to be Lord Privy Seal, and his successor in that office is not in the cabinet. He continues as Lord President. Kingsley Wood enters the cabinet as Postmaster-General
  • 1934 - Oliver Stanley succeeds Sir H. Betterton as Minister of Labour.

Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
Preceded by:
Stanley Baldwin
Labour Government (1924) Followed by:
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by:
Stanley Baldwin
Labour (1929-1931)
National Government (1931-1935)
Followed by:
Stanley Baldwin

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